People growing up in the 1970s–80s had a greater risk of visual impairment by the time they reached their teens in comparison to their 1960 counterparts, new research has found.
Funded by CLOSER, the study, which was performed by researchers at the UCL Institute of Child Health, tracked the visual function of over 14,000 people born in 1946, 1958 and 1970.
Led by Professor Jugnoo Rahi, the researchers compared measures of eyesight across three birth cohorts, examining how visual function and ophthalmic disorders have changed over time. They also investigated the association between social position and gender.
The team reported that young people in their mid-teens in 1974 and 1986 were 75% more likely to have severe visual impairment or blindness than those of that age in 1961.
Furthermore, across all generations it was found that people from less privileged homes were are greater risk of sight problems. While females were also more likely to suffer impaired vision, as well as have greater odds of severe visual impairment, than males.
Speaking about the findings, Professor Rahi told OT that the team’s analysis of data from three birth cohorts, which spanned 25 years, suggests that “disadvantaged social position at birth and during childhood were each associated with impaired visual function alongside, and independent of, ethnic minority status and being female.”
She explained that: “Since these associations with childhood circumstances are also evident in populations of older adults now, we think that these early life factors influence visual function throughout life.”
The value of the study “lies in identifying a historical springboard from which subsequent visual health inequalities in childhood are likely to have emerged and possibly continued into adulthood,” Professor Rahi concluded.
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